Posted Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at 1:24 PM
A graceful leap, calculated tumble, and, finally, sticking the landing: It all happened far away from the London Olympics, on Earth's red neighbor, Mars. NASA's Curiosity Rover survived its perilous seven-minute descent into the Gale Crater last night, allowing engineers to exhale explosively and give each other high-fives all around.
The $2.5 billion, one-ton, six-wheeled nuclear-powered mobile science laboratory quickly beamed back three images from the Martian surface to the landing team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles soon after touching down. The team erupted into cheers after seeing the images, and President Obama hailed the landing as "an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."
Curiosity, which is twice as large and five times heavier than twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, will look for evidence that Mars may have once hosted the basic building blocks necessary for microbial life to evolve. But for now, we can just give her high scores for not blowing up.
Video by Jim Festante.